Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy: Symptoms & Treatment

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Tingly feelings are common in your feet during pregnancy. You already know about pregnancy leg cramps. Leg cramps have a counterpart called carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy that occurs in your fingers, wrists and hands.

Even if you are pregnant or have never been pregnant, you must have felt those mild vibrations in your hands when you slept over them. Keeping them in a single position for long or nervousness also causes similar sensations. Carpal tunnel syndrome is mainly because of a pinched or compressed nerve in your wrist. It can be due to restricted movement or monotonous movement of one region. It causes numbness of a particular part of the hand. 

During pregnancy, there is edema that is swelling due to the accumulation of fluids and other reasons that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome like symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy

What Causes Carpal tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy?

The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a feeling of numbness, tingling, weakness or any pain in the hands or parts of the arm.

There is a narrow passage in the wrist called carpal tunnel that allows tendons, and nerves pass through it. When this area has some compression it leads to pain and discomfort.

The primary cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy is compression of the median nerve. The median nerve runs from the forearm to the middle, index and ring finger through the carpal tunnel. It controls movements of these regions.

During pregnancy because of certain conditions, the pressure is on the carpal tunnel the area reduces and causes CTS.

Three main reasons for pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are

  1. reduced passage,
  2. increased sensitivity of the nerves
  3. or amount of tissue present in the carpal tunnel.

Pregnancy-related fluids buildup is primarily responsible for putting pressure on the median nerve. Some women tend to gain fat excessively leading to fat deposits occurring even near hands. One should avoid surgery until childbirth unless your doctor suggests getting it done. Repeated movements such as typing or knitting baby socks can aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome.

Women who are suffering from obesity or have bigger breasts are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Sudden weight gain during pregnancy or breastfeeding can contribute to aggravating the symptoms of CTS.

Symptoms can aggravate if you’ve any habits of shaking or vibrating the region. Unless the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is severe, physical therapy can resolve the condition.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

There are no specific tests for carpal tunnel syndrome. It is mainly based on carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms experienced by the patient. There can be X-Ray examinations or other physical examination by the doctor.

About 3 out of every 100 pregnant women have CTS. The normal tingling sensations are common, but they do not necessarily indicate carpal tunnel syndrome.

The main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:

1) Numbness and Tingling

Fingers, wrists, and hands of the pregnant woman suffering from CTS experiences numbness and prickly sensation. This symptom heightens during the night.

2) Weakness in the hand

A pregnant woman may encounter difficulty in holding and gripping. Doing daily activities such as knitting, buttoning, and even typing may become difficult.

3) Shock-like sensations 

A shock like sensation may be felt in the fingers 

After childbirth, the carpal tunnel symptom alleviates by itself as the fluid volume reduces back to normal.

Your carpal tunnel syndrome will not affect your baby unless you opt for surgery which has its own risks. This problem aggravates in the third trimester which is critical for baby survival and least recommended time for any surgery.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

15 Ways to ease Carpal tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy

1) Wear wristbands

Wrist Band For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Wrist Band For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Wearing wristbands can reduce the numbness and give support to your wrist. However, you don’t have to wear too tight splints because during pregnancy blood pressure can fall and cause weakness. Don’t sleep with such bands unless your doctor advises you do to so. A wrist brace will keep your hand in straight alignment, and prevent bending.

2) Avoid activities that put pressure on that region

Avoid knitting, cycling, typing
Avoid knitting, cycling, typing

Cycling, holding things too tight, typing or even knitting can increase the pain. Avoid such activities completely and change your lifestyle. Instead of going on treadmills opt for yoga. Stretches and slow pace exercises will help. Switch to the ergonomic keyboard if you can’t avoid work. Studies suggest that using cell phones to text can also affect CTS during pregnancy.

3) Never keep your hand under your head while sleeping

Never keep your hand under your head while sleeping
Never keep your hand under your head while sleeping

With or without a wristband do not use your hand as a pillow. Avoid placing the particular hand on anywhere except over your belly. If you accidentally sleep on your hand, the next morning things can be painful.

4) Do exercises that stretch and rotate wrist optimally

Hold wrist of one hand with another and gently massage for instant relief. Using essential oils for a massage is beneficial. Stretch and lift the wrist to CTS pain. Get rid of any habits such as clicking knuckles or rotating pen while holding it.

5) Cortisone injection

Cortisone injection
Cortisone injection

Oral steroids are less effective than injections. However, never take such injections without consulting your gynecologist. Before asking an orthopedic specialist tell your gynecologist about it.

6) Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy

A physiotherapist will use massage techniques to relieve the median nerve. When you massage yourself, you’ll only get temporary relief. The cause of carpal tunnel needs to be targeted. Only an expert can rebuild lost nervous connections. It is important to get a basic treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy to prevent permanent nerve damage.

7) Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The ancient Chinese technique involves pricking certain points that can reduce and cure the pain in other regions. Acupuncture is a well-known remedy for CTS and is an option for pregnant women too. It is still better than any minor correction surgery.

8) Changing the height of the desk and chairs that you use

Changing the height of the desk and chairs that you use
Changing the height of the desk and chairs that you use

Sometimes it is not the work done by hands and instead the posture that causes pain. You need to change your way of sitting when you are pregnant. Putting pillows to support your back will prevent you from leaning on the desk. Any incorrect posture of the upper body can affect the nerve supply of the area.

9) Anti-inflammatory drugs

Anti inflammatory drugs
Anti-inflammatory drugs

Most pregnant women are asked to avoid such over the counter drugs. If you consult with your doctor, she may prescribe Aspirin, or ibuprofen to reduce the pain and inflammation.

10) Keep yourself warm

Keep yourself warm
Keep yourself warm

Try to keep yourself warm. Even if it is summer, avoid going around with bare minimum. During pregnancy, your body cannot tolerate and regulate too much of temperature fluctuations. It is best to keep yourself warm, so that blood circulation is uniform. If you live in cold areas or it is winter, this is a special point for you. Nevertheless, you can apply ice packs or any cold thing to relieve your wrist and palms.

11) Wear a proper maternity bra

During pregnancy, you don’t feel like putting on a bra over sore breasts. But it is essential for aesthetic and health purposes that you do. Excess load on the ribs area strains the nerves of the area. You will unknowingly have a bent forward posture. It will make the CTS pain worse.

12) Take vitamin B6 supplements

The nervous tissue needs lots of Vitamin B6 for its function. If your carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy is because of over sensitivity of median nerve, vitamin B6 will help. Sunflower seeds, banana, and parsley are rich sources. You can even take artificial supplements of Vitamin B6 during pregnancy.

13) Chamomile tea

Chamomile Tea For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Chamomile Tea For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Herbal therapies for Carpal tunnel include drinking chamomile tea. You must not exceed the allowed dose to avoid side effects such as insomnia during pregnancy.

14) Massage

Hand Massage
Hand Massage

Use essential oils such as lavender oil or sandalwood oil to massage your wrists. Using a warm compress or cold compress as a home remedy for pregnancy carpal tunnel is also advisable.

15) Green and white cabbage

Traditional methods of treating carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy include placing cabbage leaves on wrists. It is believed to extract fluids from the area and reduce pressure.

3 Stretches that ease Pregnancy Carpal tunnel Syndrome

  1. Flex your wrists: Hold out your hand and bend the fingers towards yourself. Now using the other hand push your wrist towards your chest gradually. Don’t allow either hand to move towards any direction. You will feel some tension, but there should be no pain. Make sure that the exercise is only by your hands and not shoulders.
  2. Hold open your hand: Place the affected hand on a table or stable place. Make a fist of the other hand and press the affected region. Now gradually move towards the fingers. It is like flattening the dough while kneading. You’ll feel the pain moving out of your fingers.
  3. Rotate your arms: Place your hands in front, palms facing each other. Keep your arms folded and rotate your hands. First, rotate along the upper direction and later downwards. You can later hold dumbbells while doing this.

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